Not long ago, the respected polling group Rasmussen released a survey with some disturbing numbers. It caused some to conclude that many Generation X and Y Americans are confused about the relative merits of socialism as opposed to capitalism. I hope confusion is to blame here, because the numbers are pretty scary.

According to Rasmussen, only 37% of Americans under age 30 endorse capitalism over socialism. Socialism’s fans clocked in at 33%. That leaves 30% with no opinion on one of history’s most conclusive lessons.

I can think of no reason why these numbers should be that close. History’s verdict is indisputable. Socialism is an empty and failed economic system. From the Soviet collective farms of the past to the current economic crisis in Greece, socialism has been a resounding and complete failure.

When Americans, young or old, are asked which is better, the answer has to be a ringing endorsement of capitalism. Our system has created more wealth for ordinary folks than any other in history. Capitalism has fed more people and spurred more progress. Incentives work. Since socialism has no individual incentives, the seed of its failure were sown at its inception. That some want to try it here is a disturbing concept.

Let’s be clear. The U.S. is not a socialist nation, despite recent claims to the contrary. Neither is it purely capitalistic. I believe the trends are running more toward the socialist side of the ledger, but our economy remains mostly driven by capitalism. I suppose we’ve become kind of a hybrid economy, still bending toward free markets, while flirting with socialism.

There’s good reason for this hybridization. As recent events illustrate, capitalism can go off the rails if there aren’t a few grownups in the room. This is a lesson Theodore Roosevelt taught the nation a century ago, and we are relearning it now. Prudent regulation seems necessary, but free markets are vital to sustained economic growth.

Agriculture is very dependent on free markets. In the Soviet collective farms, much work was deferred or never completed because there was no direct link between labor and reward. In many socialist nations, during the last quarter century, experiments in allowing people to plant their own crops and even sell some of the harvest have been very successful. China has implemented capitalism without democracy. Even a devoted socialist like Raul Castro has decreed that Cubans may now plant their own crops in broke and desperate socialist Cuba.

Yet, the enthusiasm some display for the concepts of socialism is more than disturbing. It’s frightening. An angry and restless America is searching for answers. As history shows, socialism is not one of them.
-- Gene Hall, Texas Farm Bureau